11 Jun

what i’m reading now: the fun edition

noun_63245I was going to make a concerted effort to get back into reading fiction this year, but it hasn’t happened. But that doesn’t mean I’m not reading, nor does it mean I’m not reading for pleasure.

So here’s a run down on what I’m reading for fun at the moment, aside from all the #blogjune posts, that is! I’ll cover my professional reading in a later post.


Blogging is *so* not dead.

Everyday, real people fashion blogs

I learned about a lot of really great blogs from my PhD project participants, many of them fashion blogs. Happy days! Here are the ones I read religiously:

  • Styling You is my fav fashion blog, and I also love her beauty posts. I owe Nikki Parkinson for introducing me to brands like Bohemian Traders and for inspiring my 5 minute makeup routine. I pretty much use Nikki’s posts as the source for most of my clothing purchases (along with her daily Instagram #everydaystyle pics) and I love her monthly new beauty products posts.
  • Style & Shenanigans does a mean luxe to less feature and I love her colour of the week posts. Her colour of the week this week is red and the funnel neck jacket in this post is taunting me. Taunting me I say.
  • Sonia Styling is another everyday fashion blogger but she injects some lifestyle content too.

Interior design blogs

  • Apartment Therapy, including a recent obsession with carefully reviewing every one of the 170 entries in the Small Cool contest. I want to move to New York and live in a tiny apartment and make myself a cool tiny space. (Not really.)
  • Emily Henderson just might be the coolest person in the whole world and I love love love her aesthetic.

Lifestyle blogs

  • Brit & Co. for a bit of everything, from craft to fashion to beauty to design.

Sewing blogs

I read a lot of sewing blogs, but these are three of my favourites. It wasn’t easy to keep it to three!

  • Craftiness is Not Optional. Kids’ clothes galore made for and modelled by an adorable brood of little girls. She also sews for herself, but since I’m yet to sew myself any garments, I’ve tended to get more use out of her kids’ clothes posts.
  • Made by Rae. She makes great patterns for kids and women. I’ve only sewn one of her kids patterns – the big butt baby pants – but I’m super keen to try some of her adult patterns.
  • Sew Sweetness is a new find for me. The author just ran a series called Dress Up Party where a whole bunch of great sewing bloggers tested and posted about garment patterns.


News isn’t necessarily fun, but it’s not really work either… My main news source is The Conversation. It’s the one place on the web where I don’t feel like banging my head on my desk when I read the comments (okay, sometimes I still want to slap my hand on my forehead, but it’s more like an urge to give it a moderate tap, rather than slam my head into something hard).


I’ve got just one book on the go at the moment: The life-changing magic of tidying by Marie Kondo. This book has apparently got a cult following and reading it and implementing the systems she proposes is apparently going to fix my life.

So what are you reading?

I’m keen to add some more fodder to my blogroll in particular. I’m looking for more lifestyle, craft and most importantly, interior design. Where are the good Australian interior design blogs? I get a bit sick of seeing products I can’t have <pout> so would love some Australian suggestions.

#blogjune 11/30

05 Jan

a year of being a *real person*

A year of being a real person

I think it’s kind of fitting to start my first work day for 2015 with my new year goals post. Ironically though, my goals in 2015 are all about working less and being a *real person* – a three dimensional, present, engaged person who isn’t defined by work.

There are lots of things I want to do this year. Big things. Big goals to hit. Big changes to make. A thesis to finish. A new degree to implement. New units to design.

But when I started thinking about what I wanted to do this year, I realised those big ticket work goals weren’t at the front of my mind. Yes, I totally want my PhD to be done. Yes, it’s also time for me to think seriously about my career trajectory and decide if I’m still following the right dream. But when I thought about what I wanted to do this year, I found myself returning over and over to those things I love doing that fell off my radar in 2014. Not work. Not career. Not PhD. But the little things I love to do that keep me sane and happy.

In 2014, I didn’t read a single book. I went about eight months without sewing, finishing a total of two small projects all year. I did very little non-work writing. I hardly baked at all. I didn’t do enough making, and making is really important to me. Because really, as American graphic designer Saul Bass once said, ‘I just want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares’.

I was pretty much a hermit this year too. I hardly saw my friends at all. I spent a lot of time saying, ‘I’m sorry, I have to work’ to everyone around me, including the twins. I followed my sorries with, ‘It’s just one more year’, and then, ‘It’s just a few more months’, and then ‘I just have to get past this intense phase of writing’, and, ‘My thesis will be done by the end of the year and then I’ll be back in the land of the living’.

Recently my sister called me out on this. She said there will always be a ‘I just have to…’ I realised my family fully expect that, once the PhD is done, I will find other projects that become my ‘I just have to…’ excuses. And I realised that although this is definitely not what I want, if I am not careful, I will do it. Because that’s how I roll. I see the shiny, pretty, exciting things I could be doing as part of my job and I want to do them all. And then I take on all of those things and I lose all capacity to be a friend and a daughter and a sister and an aunty and a maker and a reader and… a person.

2014 was a pretty unfun year. I let the things I love go out of necessity; work was stressful; I got caught up in trying to get myself into a permanent position at work; and I jammed an incredible amount of thesis writing into a very short period of time.

I get to be creative at work, and I found thesis writing to be a creative process too (especially because I struggled with the linearity of thesis writing, so I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about the design of the final document). This helped to balance out the lack of sewing and non-work writing and the fact I didn’t really make anything beautiful at all (except some pretty slidedecks). But no matter how much I get to flex my information design muscles at work, it’s not the same as being creative for fun or being creative for the sake of being creative. I miss reading, I miss sewing, I miss writing for pleasure, and I miss my friends and family. These are things I want to focus on this year.

Doing all of these things means having (or making) time. I know that the single most important thing I need to do to make this stuff happen is to reclaim my weekends.

I’ve been reluctant to set goals for 2015 (and maybe even more reluctant to share them) seeing my 2014 goals were great big flops (more on this in a later post). But I really want to change the balance in my life and I know I can’t do that without giving myself a framework for what I want to change and how I might make it happen.

I questioned whether I should share these goals here. But I think in two ways: with my fingers on the keyboard, or by creating a visual narrative. I sensemake by creating a story in words or images or a combination of both. So writing these things down is about planning and making sense and working out how to get to where I want to be. I’m naming these goals here as a way of claiming them and thinking through how I’m going to achieve them.

I don’t want to set myself up for a series of fails so I’m setting goals that I think are definitely achievable. There are four of them, with the first being the condition for the other three.

In 2015, I am committing that I will

  • work weekends as an exception
  • sew one thing every month
  • read one fiction book every month
  • spend time with the people who matter most.

Work weekends as an exception

Over the last five years, I’ve gradually gotten into the habit of factoring Saturday and Sunday into my work schedule every week. Having a weekend off is currently the exception, not the norm. I don’t mind working weekends to meet deadlines, but I am pretty over working a full day every Saturday and every Sunday. I’m sick of missing out on doing fun stuff and it’s really exhausting.

I made a single resolution last January: to take a day off every week. That seems like a pretty simple, achievable resolution, but it went out the window by the end of January. I had days off, but not as regularly or as many as I should have. And in the second half of the year, I basically worked non-stop, juggling the usual family commitments and curve ball after curve ball on the personal and family fronts with my very busy job and writing my thesis.

I know that shifting my mindset to see weekends as separate from the work week will be the hardest change I make this year. It’s also the most important because all the other changes I want to make hang on reclaiming some downtime.

To help me reclaim my weekends I’m going to do a number of things:

  • Set boundaries and stick to them. Mostly, this is about telling my students I’m unavailable on weekends and then actually following through. Over time, I’ve learned that students generally respect boundaries as long as I respect them too. Once I start engaging during my designated off-the-radar time, I send a message that I’m available. In short, my students aren’t the problem here. I am.
  • Set aside one hour every Saturday afternoon to respond to social media posts and email from students. I don’t feel I can be completely unavailable on the weekends because I know part time students in particularly do most of their study on the weekends. But I can restrict my availability to a certain timeframe.
  • Define types of work that I will and won’t do on weekends. For example, everyday, operational work should fit within my Monday to Friday work week. Unexpected, time critical or one-off work might need to be done on the weekends. For example, I often need to work weekends when I’m marking. I also expect to put in weekend time on my thesis. And I invariably need to work weekends when grant applications are due.
  • Manage my workload better by distinguishing between what actually needs to be done and what I’d *like* to do. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. (Haha! A bit!) I’m also heavily invested in my students and my teaching. I also have lots of interests and a fear of being bored. Together, these things mean I generate heaps of work, all of which I see as important, and all of which I want to execute perfectly. I need to rationalise my workload by looking at what I’ve got on and working out which bits of it actually don’t need doing (and I know there’s quite a lot of stuff that falls into this category). To get started with this, I need to spend some time with my current project list and my to do list and work out what really matters.
  • Ask people to hold me accountable. I’m going to need help to do this, so I plan to ask my family to help me by calling me out on working weekends if I’m doing too much of it.
  • Track my progress. I’ll note my weekend activities on my planner so I can keep an eye on how I’m going with this.

Sew one thing every month

I’d like it to be a garment for myself each month, but that might be more than I can manage, so I’m calling it ‘one thing’, whatever that thing may be. To help me achieve this, I’m going to:

  • Organise my office / sewing room. I’ve almost finished doing this. I now have a cutting table set up all the time. After today, my sewing machine will be out on my sewing table all the time too, and I’ll have all my supplies to hand on my sewing table. Less set up means I’m more likely to sew.
  • Add projects I want to make to my sew in 2015 Pinterest boardThere are a few on there already:Follow Kate’s board sew in 2015 on Pinterest.
  • Track my completed projects on my sewn in 2015 Pinterest board.
  • Work through the tips in this blog post about transitioning to a mostly handmade wardrobe (this is such a good blog post – I highly recommend it) to help me get started with sewing clothes for myself. I’m going to start by working out what my favourite fabrics are (by checking out what’s in my wardrobe) and creating a wish list of items of clothing I want to add to my wardrobe, which I’ll add to my sew in 2015 Pinterest board. Then I’ll plan my first item (I think it will be the Staple Dress from April Rhodes).
  • Use the tips in this post to make sewing more fun (including limiting myself to only one or two projects at a time – having a million unfinished things hanging around is not productive).
  • Buy fabric for specific projects, not just cause I like the fabric. I also plan to go through my stash and sell off anything that’s been there for a while without being used. I have SO MUCH fabric in my stash that it gets overwhelming. It also makes me feel like I can’t buy more fabric when I need something in particular for a particular item.

Read one fiction book every month

Reading for as little as 6 minutes reduces stress by more than 60%

Yep. It’s been proven that reading lowers your stress levels. And it’s just fun. This year I’m going to read a fiction book a month. I used to read significantly more than this, but over the last few years, the number of books I got through each year steadily declined, and then plummeted to 0 last year.

I’m going to make this happen by:

  • Building a 2015 hit list bookshelf in Good Reads. I’ll fill my hit list with the latest offerings from my favourite authors.
  • Tracking my reading progress by adding books I read to a things I read in 2015 shelf on Good Reads.
  • Choosing a tried-and-true, easy-to-read author for my first book – I’ll read the latest Marian Keyes novel The Woman Who Stole My Life.
  • Reading in bed at night. Which means stopping work at a more reasonable time and choosing to read instead of trawling social media.

Spend time with the people who matter most

This is about catching up with my friends – especially those that have patiently stuck it out with me through my PhD, with seemingly unending understanding. I’ve been a shitty friend a lot over the last four years. I’ve been there for the big stuff – for the births and the deaths and the crises and the happiest moments (although not always in the way I would like to have been) – but not for all the little moments. My bestie’s little girl is almost two and she hardly knows me. That’s something I want to change.

It’s also about saying ‘yes’ to the twins as much as possible. It’s about being more available to them so they default to assuming I’m going to be there for the important things, rather than defaulting to assuming I’ll have to work.

It’s also important to me to be a bit selfish with this. I’m a massive introvert and I can’t be endlessly social or I end up exhausted and unhappy. I need to manage my energy and be social when I can and in the ways that work best for me.

Most of all, it’s about being present when I’m with the people I love, so that I’m not half heartedly engaging with them while I answer email, or stressing about what I should be doing.

So that’s my grand plan for learning to be a person again in 2015.

Happy new year! May your year be full of fun, as I hope mine will be too.

08 Jun

buying fabric online

I am often asked where I buy fabric from and I’ve been meaning to put a quick post together listing some of my favourite stores. So here it is!

Just a note to accompany the list: I mostly buy quilting cottons so this list reflects that. I have absolutely no idea where to buy knit fabrics online from Australian stores. I have my eye on a couple of US sources for knits – in particular, Girl Charlee – but their shipping is pricey. I went to order a bunch of knit fabric a while back and when I got to the checkout, the shipping cost more than the fabric.   so if you have any suggestions, please let me know.

I’ve bought from some of the stores on this list a few times, others only once or twice. But in all cases, I’ve been happy with the transactions.

Before the list, I have a few tips.

Local or international?

I really like to shop local, but the price difference between buying from an Australian seller and buying from the US is huge. It can cost as much as twice the per yard price to buy a meter of fabric from an Australian store. Of course, you only get a 91.4cm length when you buy a yard, but it’s still a huge difference.

Buy up big when ordering from overseas

I only buy from the US when I want more than a couple of meters. Sometimes I see something I want in a US store but I generally try to bulk out my order with other fabric. Some online fabric stores tell you how many meters or yards you can fit in a standard shipping envelope or package and I use those guides to work out how much I can fit in the package. See, for example, this chart from one of my favourite online stores, Jaq’s Fabrics. The shipping charge is estimated to be the same for 2.5 yards or 9 yards. So really, you’d be *crazy* not to buy 9 yards. (Clearly I have lots of justifications for excessive fabric buying up my sleeve!)

Buying minky or other bulky fabric

If you’re buying something bulky, buy local. The bulky stuff is heavy and… well… bulky. Don’t fill up your precious shipping space with this stuff.

Online or in the flesh?

I much prefer to buy fabric online. I think I might be in the minority. I find that I get overwhelmed in fabric stores and I end up buying stuff that I really don’t have a plan for. (Look, if I’m being completely honest, I should admit I do that online too.) But I like those ‘design wall’ features on fabric sites that let you put fabrics together to see what works. I always feel really rushed in fabric stores too so I just end up grabbing at stuff. My online fabric purchases are generally much more considered.

The list: places I’ve bought from and recommend: US



  • Huge range
  • Frequent sales on quilting cottons
  • Stocks all the big designers
  • Often has stock of popular ranges that have sold out elsewhere
  • You can order swatches (I never have)
  • They have a design wall where you can put a bunch of fabrics to see them side by side


  • Call me picky, but I do like my fabric to be carefully folded and that’s not something you get here
  • I really like the idea of supporting small businesses and this is kind of the fabric store version of a department store – it’s big business
  • I’m a fan of seeing sale information in my inbox, but these guys send pretty frequent emails and I could do with a few less
  • Sometimes the range can be a bit overwhelming and I can’t decide what I want… So I buy nothing – or, more likely, I buy everything

Jaq’s Fabrics

This was one of the first places I bough fabric from when I started sewing. I originally bought in the Jaq’s Fabrics Etsy store but there is a separate website, too. When I want to order fabric from the US I generally check to see if I can get it here first.


  • Fabric is carefully cut and always pretty well straight
  • Fabric is always neatly folded and nicely packed
  • Emails for new ranges and sales but not an overwhelming number
  • I just feel better about buying from a small business


  • Smaller range – I can’t always get what I want here

The list: places I’ve bought from and recommend: Australia

Addicted to Fabric

Addicted to Fabric is a fantastic Canberra fabric store that sells some of their range online. I have only bought from the store, not online, but if they had their whole range online I would definitely be a frequent shopper. If you’re after a particular fabric I think it would be worth giving them a call.

Fat Quarter Sisters

You can never have too many fat quarters, and they’re so cheap! (I realise they’re not actually cheap when you consider the cost per meter… But they’re like $5. Who can resist?) A while back, I was tempted by some very cheap, very cute fat quarters from the Facebook-based store. I bought one or two, which actually turned out to be 17 when the invoice came… Oops! This store is also on Etsy.


  • Fast invoicing
  • Fast shipping
  • Neat cuts
  • Nice (but small) range
  • Small business, Australian


  • Fat quarters only

Fabric Pixie


  • Good customer service – I needed fabric in a hurry and they got it to me in under two days
  • They have stock of some ranges that are getting to be hard to get
  • Very neat cuts
  • They currently have some good sale prices on some fabrics
  • Small business, Australian, and (for me) local


  • Limited range

Blog every day in June 7/30